Audrey is a medical transcriptionist, instructor, writer, photographer, and dog trainer who writes on a variety of topics.
Dogs and Hot Weather
As much as we all love the hot days of summer, keep in mind the saying "dog days of summer." This saying is actually quite profound when it comes to Fido because it actually means the hottest and most suffocating days of the season.
We humans find it tough enough to withstand days of 95 degrees and groan and complain when the mercury zooms to 105 or 115 degrees. Imagine what dogs must feel like, especially ones that are covered in fur.
My Malamutes in Summer
We have three Alaskan malamutes, and here in Central Oregon, which is high mountain desert climate, we regularly see temperatures of 100 degrees and above in July and August. I have a term for my malamutes during this period of the year: dog rugs.
My long hair malamute Griffin is especially sensitive to high temperatures and can be regularly found at the door or window begging to be let inside where at least he can lay in front of a fan or reap the benefits of the air conditioning. He's one smart dude!
For those of us who can't allow our dogs access to our home during the day and have to be gone for long periods of time, the key to protecting our dogs from the heat is more challenging but a must nevertheless.
How to Keep Dogs Cool in Hot Weather
While we can't keep them as cool as in winter, for instance, there are many ways to keep a dog cooler in hot weather. Yes, a dog pants to handle temperature control and it's a normal function—but dogs, just like people, can suffer from heat stroke and die.
- The most important factor in keeping a dog cool in hot weather is to make sure he or she has plenty of appropriate temperature water. That means not leaving dog water bowls out in the blazing hot sun.
- Another must in hot weather for dogs is that they have to have shade. Even dogs that love to lie full out in the sun need to have somewhere that they can go when they need a cool-down.
There are a lot of great products on the market that can offer your dog shade. There are some simple products that can cool your dog down, too, and they come in all kinds of interesting sizes, shapes, and types.
How to Use Dog Shade Products
There are many different dog shade products, and some work in one situation where they might not work in another. The first thing to do is figure out what type of dog shade product you need for what job. Let's look at a few different scenarios and what might work best.
Outdoor Dog Shade Products
- Kennel covers, tarps, or canopies: It's best to use fabrics that breathe so as to not trap in the heat but any kind of covering for a kennel or part of a yard is better than leaving the dog out in the heat of the day—check to be sure that the dog has access to the shade and can get there comfortably and easily any time it needs to and consider placing water access there as well.
- Thermal dog houses: Whether it's an igloo style doghouse or a different style, thermal dog houses have the ability to keep dogs warm in winter and cooler in summer. Make sure again that the dog has access to the inside of the dog house and can get to water if he or she gets thirsty.
- Umbrellas: Though a little unconventional, umbrellas of any sort can be rigged to provide protection for your dog who has to be outside in the heat. As long as the dog has somewhere to get out of the heat, it's a plus all the way around.
- Dog shade systems: For a unique way to keep your dog cool on the hottest days of summer, check out the Kittywalk Systems Ultra Breezy Dog Bed System. This shade system is more of a dog bed under a canopy idea, but it definitely provides a lot of shade for any size dog.
Car and Truck Dog Shade Products
- Canopies and truck covers: Sometimes we don't think about the sun shining down on Rover as he rides faithfully with us in the back of a pickup or here in Central Oregon on a flatbed truck. The PupHut is a shade screen that fits on the back of most pickup trucks, weighs less than 40 pounds and requires no tools to install. It's a great way to keep pups cool and in the shade during everyday driving. Flatbed trucks should have some sort of shelter or doghouse attached to the truck itself giving dogs a safe place to hunker down out of the hot sun.
- Window shades: Oftentimes while traveling with my own dogs, I have to remember to check where the sun is coming in the back windows. If you park in the shade with the windows down but then don't check to see where the sun is coming through the windows, you can defeat your own purpose. Sun reflected through the windows (even tinted) is hotter than being in the sun itself--or at least it feels that way! Protect dogs with see through sunblock shades if they're going to be riding around in the sun for long periods. It protects them from the sun's harmful UV rays and keeps them cooler.
- Crates: For safety purposes in our SUV, we have two dog crates and our dogs usually only ride when crated unless it's for short distances. We used to have crates that were more enclosed but found that our dogs were always panting even if we had the AC on in the car. We switched to completely open crates for traveling in the car and problem solved--they allow more circulation but they do not afford shade so the down side is that you have to pay more attention to where you park and how much sun is coming in the windows.
Home Dog Shade Products and Tips
- All of the above kinds of products would apply for using inside the house as well as outside.
- Assure that your dog has access to shade if he or she is left in the house and free access to large quantities of water.
- Make sure anywhere the dog is left in hot weather that there is plenty of ventilation.
- Make sure that he or she is not exposed to long periods of blazing sunshine coming in the windows that he or she can't get away from.
- If the dog is kenneled or crated, make sure that there is plenty of circulation and shade within the crate at any given moment and that the dog again has full access to as much water as he or she needs.
- If possible in times of extreme hot weather, leave fans and/or air conditioning on to cool the dog down.
- Tile floors, lineoleum, and wood floors are far cooler than leaving dogs in rooms with carpeting.
What Are Some Dog Cooling Products?
Dog cooling products are just what the name suggests...products to cool down your dog. They are used in addition to natural things like water, shade, and the breeze.
Some really neat products that cool down dogs are available. Use any or all of them according to your own dog's needs and apply to situations where they would be of best use.
- Dog pools: There are all kinds of neat dog swimming pools available like the One Dog One Bone Pool. It's a play pool shaped like a dog bone and is made of the same material as truck liners so you know it's durable. It's great for big dogs. It boasts that it's chew resistant and UV ray resistant—it comes in several sizes.
- Kiddy pools: If you don't have access (or money to spend) on a specialized dog pool, try one of the more durable, hard plastic kiddy pools. We've used one of these for several years for our malamutes and they work just fine--although they are not chew resistant! We leave it filled for easy access any time of day or night--and clean it out every few days. The dogs go in it when they feel like it. We keep it in a shaded part of the patio and it also serves as a huge water bowl.
- Pool ramps: If you happen to have a swimming pool and you're worried about your dog getting in but not being able to get back out without exhaustion and drowning, ramps like Skamper Ramp are great add-ons. Hypothetically, dogs just like children should always be attended when in the pool but these ramps are a safety measure that can prevent a dog from drowning when he or she tries to get cool.
- Cooling dog mats and dog beds: For pets in hot weather, a cooling mat or cooling bed is an ideal way for them to bring down their body temperature. The dog gets to decide when they need it. Pressure activated, they can be used in kennels, crates or on the floor or bed. They're filled with a non-toxic cooling gel and there's no need to add water or do anything as the dog activates it by laying on it If you can't afford cooling mats, wet towels work just as well. Place a tarp beneath if you don't want the floor to get wet.
- Crate fans: If crated, dogs can become extremely overheated, especially if the crates or pens are not open to the air like metal panel crates. Setting up regular fans that blow on the crate is one way to cool them down but there are specialized crate fans that operate either electrically or with batteries that can be attached right to the crate--these are great for traveling in the car in hot weather and especially when parked.
- Cooling collars and cooling jackets: These are available in all shapes and sizes and apply cooling directly to the dog's body. They're nontoxic and most have tubes that you fill with ice. Their recommended usage is for indoors under supervision for obvious reasons like tearing the items to shreds or having another dog do the job.
- Dog misting fans: Outdoor dog misting fans are available that require an electrical cord and a hose but can easily cool and mist a dog in a kennel. Or you can find cooling misting fans that attach to a leash or are handheld for quick cooling mists for instance on a hike. Just make sure to introduce these kinds of appliances to dogs slowly to avoid them becoming fearful of them as much like with spraying a dog with a hose, not all dogs like water on them at first.
Keep Your Dog Cool and Safe
Remember that no product in the world takes the place of human attention to your dog's well being. Dogs left in hot cars expire in a very short period of time or suffer irreversible damage from heat stroke. Pups left out in the hot sun can be dead of heat stroke within hours, and dogs without water is just plain cruel.
Make sure your dog has the things necessary to protect himself or herself on hot days:
- Water, water, and more water
- Shade or cover to get out of the heat
Keep in mind that if you're feeling the heat, your dog is feeling it probably twice as much. Inactivity is normal for dogs as they try to regulate their body temperature, and over-exercising them in hot temperatures can also lead to health problems and even death.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: I built a 300 ft fence in my back yard and sectioned it off into three separate fences all of which have dog houses but not one ounce of shade. How I can make shade out of kennel panels and tarps or anything I can't afford to buy much but whatever you can help me with I would appreciate it they are burning up right now. I have big swirl fans and lots of water but they are still hot?
Answer: Please make sure you do get them some shade as that is very hard on dogs to be too warm and have too much sun. The main thing is to figure out when the sun is coming in and from what direction. They still need ventilation as well. Things like tarps can be great for creating shade. Here is a website with some ideas - but you can Google 'do-it-yourself' or DIY shade ideas for dog kennels and get some great pictures and ideas! https://www.shadenthings.com/dog-kennel-cover-idea...
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on August 19, 2012:
No kidding - in this heat definitely less is more...I had him outside for a minute or two today away from the fans and AC that he loves so well....he was literally drooling so badly that I had to bring him back in right away. Bring on the cool temps! Only wish I could entice him to swim too but he just won't have any part of it...Gabby is a pool dog all the way in her little kiddie pool but Griff--one paw in, one paw out~
Crewman6 on August 18, 2012:
Poor guy- I'm sure he's miserable right now. At least our three are little and lightly furred!
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on August 18, 2012:
Thanks, Crewman for stopping by - that is hilarious - I'd love to teach mine to open doors...but maybe not as they would probably attempt it on my front door and take me down the road looking for them!
Definitely mine are feeling the heat about now...especially Griffin. He's lost enough hair to knit about 3 million coats and still he's panting like a fiend. I can't wait for fall for his sake~
Crewman6 on August 18, 2012:
Some great suggestions. Given the heat we've been having, timely also. It's important to take responsibility for our pets. Our three are mainly indoors, but they have full access to water and shade in the patio. It has a screen door, but all three can open the door by 'pulling' with a paw. It's always funny when people see them do it for the first time.
Well-written hub, Audrey!